Bookstore
Home    Topics    Contact    Support

Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics About the Hebrew Language

Explaining the Morphology of Hebrew Words

By Jeff A. Benner


Morphology is the study of how words are formed and as Hebrew words often contain several affixes (i.e. prefixes and suffixes), morphology is a very important subject in Hebrew linguistics. In Psalm 45 verse 3 (2 in Christian Bibles) I came across a Hebrew word with a very complex morphology and thought that this word would make a good demonstration of how Hebrew words are formed. Here is the word:

Morphology

The Noun

This is the Hebrew noun שפה (S.P.H) and means “lip.” If you will notice, only the first two letters (in red) of this noun appear in the word above. I’ll come back to why that is in moment.

Prefix

The letter ב (b, in blue) is a prefix that usually means “in,” but can also mean “with.” So, בשפה (b’saphah) means “with a lip.”

Suffix #1

The Hebrew noun שפה (S.P.H) is a feminine noun and when a feminine noun is in the plural, the feminine plural suffix ות (ot, in green) is used. Many feminine nouns end with ה (h), such as this one, and when they do, and the ות (ot) suffix is added, the ה (h) changes to a ת (t, in orange). So בשפות (b’saphot) means “with lips.”

Suffix #2 The masculine plural suffix is ים (iym), such as can be found in the word אלהים (elohiym), which is usually translated as “God” (Hebrew plurals can under certain circumstances be a singular noun), but also “gods.” When a masculine plural noun is written in the construct state, as in “God of…,” then it is written as אלהי (elohey). Note that they letter ם (m) is dropped and all that is left of the suffix is י (ey). When a feminine plural noun, such as בשפות (b’saphot, “with lips”), is in the construct state, the same י (ey, in lavender) used in masculine possessive nouns, is added to the feminine plural noun-- בשפותי (b’saphotey) and means “with lips of…”

Suffix #3

The final letter in the word, ך (kha, in black), is the second person, masculine, singular pronoun (you). So the word בשפתותיך (b’s’ph’to’tey’kha) means “with lips of you” or “with your lips.”




If you would like to be notified of new articles from this website...
Join the Mail List



Related Pages by Jeff A. Benner


Ancient Hebrew Dictionary Target=Ancient Hebrew Dictionary (Book)
This Biblical Hebrew dictionary contains the one thousand most frequent verbs and nouns found within the Hebrew Bible.


TheThe Culture of the Hebrew Language (Article)
Understanding the Ancient Hebrew culture is very important for proper Biblical interpretation and without it the reader interject his or her own cultural perspectives on the text.


TheThe Connection Between Language and Culture (Video)
In every culture, past and present, the language is closely connected to the culture of the people.



Search the AHRC Website

Google
 
Web Ancient-Hebrew.Org